Too fat to fly.
It seems in recent years, right before a film opens, the director or stars of a film will get involved in some sort of random fiasco, almost like they want to get their names in the news. It seems they never make incredibly stupid comments, come out of the closet, or get into a back-and-forth feud with a co-worker unless a movie they made is about to hit theaters within a two week window. Perhaps its the easiest, cheapest publicity that can be had, the ol' media outlet, and maybe even the smartest, considering this nation's obsession with celebrities and their random missteps.
Kevin Smith most certainly personified this theory of mine with his most recent effort, 'Cop Out.' Smith seems to love being the center of attention, and he went all out on this one. First, there was the whole incident about being bumped from a flight due to his excessive bulk. That wouldn't have been an issue at all, really, if it weren't for his tweeting about it for days afterwards, drawing attention to himself. Suddenly, his name was in the news, and it wasn't for making a celebrated film. Soon after, most all of the major film critics panned the film, drawing Smith's ire, yet Smith's fans enjoyed the film (and we're sure that they gave an unbiased opinion of the film), bringing out the hypocrite in Smith. Suddenly, Smith felt as though critics should pay to see films, and felt that audience reviews were more important and valid to the worth of a film (and I'm willing to bet he wouldn't say fans shouldn't have to pay!).
This all coming from the very same Smith who absolutely ate up every bit of positive critical mention he could get in the past, riding on the praise for 'Clerks' and 'Chasing Amy' to make a name for himself. The very same Smith who filled in for Roger Ebert for a short stint of film reviews. The very same Smith who, for the first time in his career, topped $40 million in domestic box office take with 'Cop Out,' another first for the filmmaker: the first time he directed a film he didn't write. Mission: accomplished. Become attention whore, get money. Worked for Paris Hilton, and thank god Smith didn't do a low-light home video porno to get said attention.
Brooklyn detective Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) wants to show his daughter (and prove to his ex-wife and her new husband) that he can cover her lavish wedding, and be there for her in that way. But when he and his longtime partner Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) get suspended without pay, it seems the only way Jimmy can fund the affair would be to sell his rare mint condition 1952 Topps Andy Pafko baseball card. When said card is stolen out from under Jimmy by a petty criminal (Seann William Scott), the duo embark on a personal vendetta, to catch the thief, and get the card back, by any means possible...even if that means dealing with the baseball obsessed drug dealer (Guillermo Diaz from 'Weeds') who bought it off the thief.
Originally titled 'A Couple of Dicks,' 'Cop Out' doesn't exactly seem to try all that hard to create an interesting, funny film, the one and only thing that past Smith films all had in common. In fact, 'Cop Out' seems to embody the very phase that Smith became known for in his personal life: too fat to fly. Running an overly long 107 minutes, there are numerous scenes and side-stories that could have been axed to create a thinner, more accessible, viable film. In short, a movie capable of taking off.
Of course, the baseball card and family marriage plot had to stay, as they're the basis of the story. The rest can be called into question, one piece at a time. The "Shit Bandit," as Scott's character is described in the extras, adds absolutely nothing to the story, besides the ability to make more poop jokes. Couldn't just any criminal steal the card? Why drag in Poh Boy, a third rate, underdeveloped character? Then there's the subplot concerning Paul and his wife (the lovely Rashida Jones of 'Parks and Recreation'), with his suspicions of her infidelity. The only times she appears are in scenes to set up said subplot, and nothing else, so we could axe that section of the film, also, save for the fact that we need something to make Paul more than just a big mouthed buffoon, a one note character.
Poh Boy's gang gets far too much attention, with their various misdeeds and screw ups, causing their demises, but after the first inter-gang execution, we, the audience, get the point that they're expendable. Throw in a competing pair of detectives (Adam Brody and a very subdued Kevin Pollak), a kidnapped Mexican who holds a deep secret (Ana de la Reguera), a grade school car thief, and perhaps the worst performance of Smith favorite Jason Lee's career, and the fat starts to spill over into the other theater aisles.
Even with the excessive weight, 'Cop Out' hardly maintains a tone, as the jokes miss far more often than they hit, and the action section of this action-comedy is incredibly weak. In the extras for this release, we see how much improvisation was used on set, and while it usually goes too far in each scene, said on-the-spot comedy is much more fresh and polished, even made up, than what shows up in the script and the final product.
For all my criticisms, I will admit 'Cop Out' does have a few redeeming qualities. I've never been a fan of Morgan, but he truly has great timing in this film, and is by far the most likable character. We also get a few scenes where we can stare at how amazing Michelle Trachtenberg (remember 'Harriet the Spy?') has grown up to be, and there are a few fun moments between Morgan and both de la Reguera and Jones. Better yet, Smith only has the one View Askewniverse alum drawing attention away from the film (not even his wife!), a real first, and New Jersey really isn't in the equation whatsoever. Fans of Smith's work may be happy to see Dave Klein again serving as DP (not the kind discussed in the film), but may be bummed to discover longtime producer Scott Mosier had no involvement whatsoever.
Smith needs to grow up. As a person, capable of receiving criticism for the work he does (and the criticism he levies on others, as well), and as a filmmaker. At only 40 years old, Smith has plenty of time to refine his abilities, and come through with another critical darling, that fans will surely eat up, as they do all his films. But catering to and appealing to the same audience over and over is not success. That's fan service. 'Cop Out' may be his biggest film to date, and it is the first time Smith has really ventured away from his stable of actor friends, but much like Southwest Air did, Kevin Smith needs to eject the extra (cinematic) weight he's carrying, and finally do what he has long needed to do: just helm a comic movie, film his long-discussed but never (until now) able to be made horror film, and let his work do the talking for a change.
Kevin Smith films usually have a unique visual "style" about them, in that they're really, really not made to look like anything special. More real than your average movie, I guess you could say, if you were an optimist. Warner Brothers' VC-1 (1080p, 2.35:1) encode takes that cue, and provides a somewhat bland transfer.
Detail levels are never the problem. In fact, they can be pretty damn awesome, from the very opening interrogation room sequence. Hell, I have never seen Morgan more clearly defined, in the arm tattoos, or his stubble, cropped hair, blemishes, or sweat. The problem is that anything else that can go wrong, possibly does. Ringing is a very minor issue, perhaps the least problematic of the bunch. The killers, though, are the random soft shots and murky moments, the dark sequences that lose any positives the transfer had going for it, the muddled mixture of artifacts, noise, and grain, and the varied contrast levels and depth of picture. This release still earns and deserves the score it is being given, mostly due to the great, great amount of detail on display, but this one could have been special.
'Cop Out' kinda cops out in the audio department, as the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix just feels uninspired, lazy, and again, just too fat to fly.
Dialogue is usually clear, though there are more than a few lines that get lost in the mix, annoyingly. Score and soundtrack volume can just overwhelm other portions, perhaps intentionally for that odd '80's vibe, but it doesn't exactly help the mix. There's nice bass, mostly in the soundtrack, and some nice gunfire pop. Gunfire localizes throughout the room, though there's no real motion. Sadly, the most incriminating piece of evidence on this one happens to be missing: rear channel use. Yeah, gunfire erupts from behind, and there are a few bits of ambience here and there, but for the most part, those extra channels just don't get used.
The extras on this release are all Blu-ray exclusive. Some may appear on the DVD, but not in the same form as they do here.
This release is titled the "rock out with your glock out" edition, but I refuse to dignify such an idiotic name with any mention alongside the title, or the review, beyond making fun of it here.
A long time ago, I was a devoted Kevin Smith fan. His movies received endless replays in my home. But over the years, they grew more and more stale with each re-viewing. Now, I can't help but notice the glaring flaws and failures. 'Cop Out' isn't his worst film, but it ventures away from what makes Kevin Smith films unique: his ability to write dialogue, even as un-believable as it is. No amount of star power could save a film helmed by a mediocre director who seems lost at the wheel at times. Too bulky for its own good, this action comedy really should have tried to focus on being one or the other. The Blu-ray release isn't bad, and it has one of the best extras found on the Blu-ray market, period, one sure to make Smith fans squeal with delight. As such, this one is worth a look, possibly even a blind buy, but don't set your expectations too high.